Early Dutch Books Online gives full-text access to more than 2 million pages in 10,000 books from the Dutch-speaking region from the period 1781-1800.
The project is a collaboration between the Royal Library of the Netherlands and the university libraries of Amsterdam and Leiden. Books from the Special Collections of these libraries have been digitized and made available on word level via this website.
The Amsterdam (UB UVA) and Leiden (UBL) university libraries and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) possess a large number of similar and complementary Special Collections, which partially overlap (where printed materials are concerned). The expression "Special Collections" is used for a wide variety of materials that are, for any reason whatsoever, rare, expensive and often fragile. Materials from Special Collections are kept in depots equipped with security measures and climate control. They consist of old, printed publications in a wide array of languages from various countries. In addition to printed works, there are also large collections of written materials in the libraries, varying from mediaeval manuscripts, later manuscripts, including scholars' and artists' archives, to over a million letters. There are also collections of maps and atlases, prints, photographs, decorated paper, bindings and typographic materials.
The Special Collections departments of UB UVA, UBL and the KB launched the initiative "National Infrastructure for Digital Access to Special Collections" in October 2005. This is a plan for an online library for Humanities consisting of fully digitized items from the Special Collections of the institutions involved. Digitizing the various Special Collections from these three libraries, and in time also from other libraries, makes a large quantity of previously mostly inaccessible texts accessible to scholars and for education. Early Dutch Books Online is the first step toward this online library.
The importance of digitization of scientific sources is evident. Without source material, research in the Humanities is impossible. Electronic access contributes to the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the research and provides opportunities for entirely new types of research. Digitization makes new scientific breakthroughs possible. Te availability of large text corpora is necessary for this. Early Dutch Books Online makes such large files accessible.